You left ZDF after 13 years to set up NADCON with Constantin Film, one of Germany’s strongest production companies. What's the company's DNA and strategy?
Peter Nadermann: My speciality is to produce and co-produce high-end drama. My work has always been very personal and I have always done what I feel is good and have picked the projects I like. This will remain the same with NADCON. There will be a lot of series - especially Scandinavian -
I had a wonderful time at ZDF Enterprises and Network Movie but I was always a bit limited as I had more quality projects I wanted to place in Germany. In the future I will continue to work closely with ZDF, but also with other players interested in Scandinavian and international crime. I will have a bigger outlet for my products.
How many series/features will you produce each year for NADCON?
PN: That will depend on the opportunities, the quality I can get but I believe every year I could develop 10-15 projects minimum. Many are already in the pipeline.
Also, what’s important for me is that I have started with Scandinavian drama very early, 15 years ago, with Henning Mankell. At that time it was very new and quite difficult to place a Swedish crime series in Germany because nobody knew the actors. It felt like another world. What I can see now is that the evolution in fiction production and distribution have played very much in my favour. Scandinavian drama and feature film have become much more the focus of the international market and what I have always done - high end and a bit edgy content - works better today, even in the US and on cable stations. So I think that in a modern globalized media world, Scandinavian material has an even greater chance to succeed internationally because the quality attached to it is much more appreciated. With NADCON, I want to build on this momentum and use it to its best.
It's been over a decade now that you are a privileged partner to Nordic producers, co-producing and acquiring features and TV series, mostly in the noir/thriller genre. What are the strengths and uniqueness of Nordic drama series that make them a perennial success and what differentiates them, for instance, to German drama series?
PN: This is a good question. Of course I have often reflected on this. In my line of work which is to do business on the international market, you must always create better content than domestic content as every market is structured to rely on domestic programmes and US programmes. That means that in Germany, Spain, Portugal, Greece etc, when you want to be successful with other international content, you have to provide better product. This quality aspect is essential. As a kind of ‘ambassador’ of Scandinavian quality programmes in the world, my interest is for things to remain the way they are.
To go back to your question, I think three aspects are unique to Scandinavian Drama.- Talent. In the music of the 18th century, everything was German with Mozart, Beethoven etc. At the moment we have a lot of talent in Scandinavia, partly thanks to the good film schools.
- Freedom. There is a lot of freedom that goes with Drama series backed by Scandinavian public broadcasters. This is essential and it is reflected on an international level. The most successful public broadcasters in Scandinavia are the most successful in the world.
SVT, DR, NRK, TV2 Denmark, even TV4 as a commercial channel. What is avant-garde in Germany is normal in Scandinavia. Actors and directors in Germany have to follow formulas, and because of the high competition on the domestic market and high volume of product (we have maybe 50 police series only in German), producers rush into production and talents do not have enough time to be precise ad to reflect on what they want to create.
- Budgets. In Scandinavia they are a bit higher than in Germany. For instance on the TV side, budgets are 10-20% higher than in Germany, that means less volume, and more money and quality for each production. Plus working conditions are very good in Scandinavia. When you put all this together it’s not a miracle that Scandinavia drama is of such high quality.
What have been the most successful Nordic TV dramas and features that you've co-produced and acquired for Germany?
PN: We’ve been successful with many productions, but I’d like to mention in particular the Millennium trilogy – both in cinemas and TV - that has opened many doors, then on the TV side our Wallander series; The Killing and The Bridge that have travelled worldwide and established a new stylistic approach. The Killing for example has introduced a new way of telling stories, becoming a role model for a lot of international TV series. Finally I’d like to mention the feature film series Snabba Cash (Easy Money). I’m very proud of it because it has defined a new style of movies that have the strength of Mexican directors like Alejandro González Iñárritu or Alfonso Cuarón in the acting and directing.
The Easy Money films like the Millennium trilogy and Wallander series are based on books. Will you continue to focus on literary adaptations at NADCON?
PN: In Germany, we love books and I often try to have control of literary rights to then develop them with Scandinavian or other producers. I will continue to work on a combination of literary adaptations and original material – especially on TV series.
Today do you look for projects across the Nordic region or mostly in Denmark and Sweden and how do you collaborate with Nordic producers?
PN: I stay very close to all producers and know all the talents – writers, directors. I can in the very beginning see what is interesting and can cooperate with other European producers to develop those projects.
New things are always interesting. So far we’ve worked mostly with Denmark and Sweden but indeed, I see a lot of talent coming out of Norway and they have money. I have really an eye on everything happening there and very soon we will do a Norwegian show as well.
Other parts of Europe are also very interesting like Spain where I’m working as well, besides Germany, France, the UK. But Scandinavia remains for me the best place to look for the quality I want.
In terms of language are all Nordic dramas and films still dubbed in German or is there now an audience for original versions, like in the UK where The Killing has opened up the market for non-English language drama?
PN: Language is of course essential. The international market is quite simply structured. You have the big English language world, then the major countries in Europe used to dubbing (Germany, France, Spain, Italy). So Tom Cruise, natural does speak German! Then you have the smaller countries that subtitle. In the subtitling countries like Scandinavia, you can see the wonderful impact it is having in terms of education of younger generations. It’s better than school!
But original language has its limitations. On one side, in Germany where we dub, we can take on much more original language material from Scandinavia, Spain, as everything is dubbed anyway. However on the exporting side - which is what I work with - the original language is a disadvantage. Of course it’s great that Brits love watching The Killing in Danish, but the audience remains quite small. We’re talking about around one million people, whereas an English language programme can reach five million people.
In the new TV series The Team there will be for the first time ‘European’ English. It’s an international crime series and all creative people –directors, writers, main cast, camera, set design, music- are Danish.The international cast will speak ‘European English’, i.e. when a Danish policeman will speak with a German policeman they will speak English with their own accent to make it credible and authentic. I have big hopes for this show.
Tell us more about The Team-the plot, cast and crew, structure of the storytelling and financial partners in place?
PN: The Team is a European road movie police series. I have developed this series in my earlier position with the Emmy award-winning couple Peter Thorsboe and Mai Brostrøm with whom I worked on Unit One, The Eagle and The Protectors. It’s a modern crime story based on the so-called European joint-investigation teams (JITs) working internationally. We have been working in close cooperation with Europol. It’s a horizontal storytelling like Peter and Mai have always done, with one big story taking you to the end and chapters allowing for reliefs at each episode.
The director Kathrine Windfeld who worked on The Killing and The Bridge is attached to it. It is a coproduction between Network Movie, Nordisk Film, Lumiere and Lunanime, Superfilms in cooperation with ZDF, SVT, DR, ORF, SFR and other channels.
ZDF Enterprises will handle world sales.
What will be the format?
PN. We always have the double format of 8X56’ for the Scandinavian market and 4X90’ for Germany and other bigger countries.
What stage are you on right now?
PN: We’re in the middle of pre-production and we will start shooting at the end of October this year.
What will be the cost per episode?
PN: It will be of the level of most Scandinavian shows, at around €1.3m per hour.
What else are you working on with Scandinavian partners?
PN: At the moment we are finishing the TV series The Bridge 2. There will be a third season.
In Denmark we have the first movie based on Jussi Adler-Olsen’s books, The Keeper of Lost Causes that was just launched successfully in Locarno. The author is very famous in Germany. The Bridge 2 and the Jussi Adler-Olsen screen adaptation are co-produced by ZDF Enterprises. Then we have new projects, but The Team is really what we focus on right now.
What do you think of the arrival on the market of new major players like Netflix who are revolutionising the way series are made and watched?
PN: This is an important question too. I’m sure there will be a major change in the TV market in the next five years. The way people watch TV will dramatically change and this will impact distribution patterns. This will be challenging for traditional TV stations because the new generation wants to take the material where they like.
Scandinavia is often 4-5 years ahead which is great. Netflix is there already and carving its niche. We have to be open for new things but on the other side, it’s very important for Scandinavians to keep the conditions they have created to deliver quality TV drama (talent development, freedom, strong financial backing) and essential for TV stations like DR, TV2, NRK, SVT, TV4 etc to remain strong. They are the gate-keepers and guarantors of quality production and we in Germany need strong partners in Scandinavia to then go and collaborate with new players like Netflix.